Faisal I of Iraq


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Ali A. Allawi

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The first major biography of the founder of modern Iraq, a charismatic champion of Arab independence and unity

Born in 1883, King Faisal I of Iraq was a seminal figure not only in the founding of the state of Iraq but also in the making of the modern Middle East. In all the tumult leading to the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of new Arab states, Faisal was a central player. His life traversed each of the important political, military, and intellectual developments of his times.
This comprehensive biography is the first to provide a fully rounded picture of Faisal the man and Faisal the monarch. Ali A. Allawi recounts the dramatic events of his subject’s life and provides a reassessment of his crucial role in developments in the pre– and post–World War I Middle East and of his lasting but underappreciated influence in the region even 80 years after his death.
A battle-hardened military leader who, with the help of Lawrence of Arabia, organized the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire; a leading representative of the Arab cause, alongside Gertrude Bell, at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919; a founding father and king of the first independent state of Syria; the first king of Iraq—in his many roles Faisal overcame innumerable crises and opposing currents while striving to build the structures of a modern state. This book is the first to afford his contributions to Middle East history the attention they deserve.

Ali A. Allawi is research professor, National University of Singapore. He was appointed Iraq’s first postwar civilian Minister of Defense in 2004 and in 2005 was appointed Minister of Finance. This is his third book. He lives in London and Baghdad.
'In this book King Faisal I of Iraq emerges as a fully rounded political figure for the first time. For much of his life Faisal was the focus and indeed the target of the schemes and hopes of others, including the British when they made him king of Iraq. However, it was then that he came into his own, as this powerful and substantial account by Ali Allawi makes clear. With consummate skill, Allawi follows and draws together the threads that went to make up Faisal's political apprenticeship and career as Ottoman statesman, hereditary prince of the Hashemite house, Arab nationalist sovereign and finally Iraqi monarch. Although he is by no means uncritical, Allawi nevertheless does full justice to his subject, presenting us with a readable and subtle account of Faisal's life and his role in the founding of the Iraqi state - and providing a tantalising glimpse of what its history might have been had that life not been cut short less than a year after Iraq achieved independence.' - Charles Tripp, author of A HIstory of Iraq
"A reverent, stirring life of the Arab nationalist, friend of T.E. Lawrence and first monarch of Iraq. Using a host of lost Arab voices in painting the portrait of Faisal I (1885–1933), the author fills a void in scholarship with this nuanced biography of a seminal figure in the shaping of the modern Middle East . . . A misunderstood sharif finds a worthy, erudite biographer in Allawi."—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

Faisal I of Iraq is a sympathetic but by no means uncritical portrait, drawing on all the available sources, in English and Arabic. It is unlikely to be dislodged as the standard treatment for some time to come.”—Christopher de Bellaigue, Financial Times

“Through his skilful use of Arabic as well as British sources, he portrays Faisal as a convincing multi-dimensional figure. . .This is the fullest portrait yet of a fascinating figure who played a significant role in the making of the modern Middle East.”—The Economist

“[A]n important achievement and fully confirms that King Faisal was an outstanding Arab leader.”—Alan Rush, The Spectator

“One of the strengths of Allawi’s book is that it ignores received ideas of imperialism and nationalism and shows the links, as well as conflicts, between them. . .This biography makes a compelling case that Faisal I, a foreign monarch born in the Hejaz, educated in Constantinople, imposed by Britain, was a better rule of Iraq than most Iraqi leaders.”—Philip Mansel, Literary Review

"This tome will hold the interest of both general readers and specialists, and is notable for being the first full-length biography of the monarch written in English."—Publishers Weekly

'Ali Allawi’s Faisal I of Iraq is excellent and indispensable, effectively a history on the making of today’s Middle East.'—Simon Sebag Montefiore, Evening Standard

‘. . .the fullest portrait yet of this fascinating figure.’ -The Economist

“This is the sort of book that invites a reader to pick it up and put it down, savoring the tale in bits as it unfolds. Faisial I of Iraq will long stand as the definitive biography of a great king and an exhaustive description of the once-promising country over which he ruled.”—Middle East Policy

Shortlisted for the 2014 Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize
ISBN: 9780300127324
Publication Date: March 11, 2014
672 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
47 b/w illus.